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The History of Beer

By Gary Wickman | Food Drink | Rating:

Today beer is a hugely popular beverage that many of us consider absolutely crucial to our way of life. It is what most men drink on nights out, what most men drink when they watch sport on the television, and how most men unwind after a hard day at work. There is something about beer that seems to make it more refreshing than nearly any other drink, and it’s pretty hard to imagine life without it.

However that said, we have not always had beer of course, and it is something that has developed over the centuries that mankind has been around. Here we will look at how beer came about, and how it has played a role in the history – and in one case even the evolution – of many nations.

The Invention of Beer

The first people ever to brew beer were the ancient Babylonians. This was regarded as a highly serious pursuit however and if the beer was brewed badly the person responsible would be drowned in their own mix! Beer then found popularity in almost all other civilisations at the time, and in the Middle Ages it became particularly important throughout Europe. The reason for this was that the water during this period was highly unhygienic and actually unsafe to drink. The beer making process however meant that the alcohol helped make the water safe to drink so many people would actually drink beer instead of water – which is quite a thought considering that beer gets you drunk and dehydrates you. This could almost be seen as explaining some of the chaos that reigned during the middle ages. It is the mineral-rich and relatively 'hard' water in Ireland that may actually have resulted in the popularity of Guinness there.

Beer in the West and East

Fascinatingly it was also this that resulted in a large difference between Westerners and Easterners. If you have any Chinese or Japanese friends who you go out drinking with, or are Asian yourself, then you may have noticed that Asian people tend to go redder than their Western counterparts when drinking large quantities of alcohol. The reason for this is that Asian countries like Japan and China actually had better hygiene during the Middle Ages and that they therefore drank water instead of beer – this meant that they never built up the same tolerance as those in the West and this is then visible when they drink. It’s actually genetically programmed into Westerners to be able to more easily withstand beer and alcohol and so not get so red – and interestingly this even raises some questions about the nature of evolution itself.

Beer Throughout History

Beer has also played a crucial role in a range of other historical events and even caused them. In 1814, a tank of over 3,500 kegs of beer exploded and created a tsunami of beer that killed nine people and demolished two houses and a Parish. The pilgrims on the Mayflower meanwhile stopped at the Plymouth Rock instead of continuing to Virginia simply because they ran out of beer. In the US of course a beer-related historical event was the prohibition that lasted a total of 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours and 32 minutes. After the prohibition was lifted Roosevelt declared 'Now what America needs is a drink'.





Gary Wickman

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